Bedding giveaway from Bedding Style ($250 value)

This giveaway is closed.  The winner, as chosen by, is comment #2, Eva!  Congratulations Eva!  Please email me at to redeem your prize!

Over the past few months, we’ve done a lot of work on our second bedroom, which functions as Matt’s office by day (he does most of his work from home) and the guest bedroom as needed.  Together we put in new electrical outlets and an ethernet jack, spruced up the ceiling fan, patched holes in the walls, and installed new window blinds.  Matt trimmed the window, replaced the baseboards, painted the walls and trim, built a desk, and created a shelf above two Ikea wardrobes closed with curtains.  But whenever guests came, we were stuck making up the bed with bedding that doesn’t quite go with the room.  That’s why we were excited when Bedding Style contacted us. 

Bedding Style is celebrating 7 years in business and wants to spread the love by giving one lucky blog reader a free designer bedding set. If you haven’t visited Bedding Style, you should take a look. They carry a large variety of high quality brand name bedding as well as bathroom accessories and they have great prices and customer service. Check out the bedding they sent to us for review:

We love this Asian Lily bedding by Perry Ellis and we think it looks great with the other colors in the room: light blue walls, white desk and trim, wood floor and blinds, and the curtains on the wardrobes. I also love that it’s 100% cotton, machine washable, and made to last.

To Enter: 1) Visit Bedding Style and pick a favorite item, then name it in a comment. If you are unable to leave a comment, send us an email at 2) For a second chance to win, Follow @BeddingStyle on Twitter or Like Bedding Style on Facebook with a link to this giveaway and mention @BeddingStyle or in your post. One random winner will win a bedding set worth up to $250 from Bedding Style. Contest ends Monday, June 25, 2012. Good luck!


Street view

The view of our house from across the street two weeks ago.  As you may know, our tree fell down unexpectedly.  Here’s the same view now:

It really changes the look.  I miss the tree, but in a way it’s kind of nice to be able to see the house.  We’ll have to do some research and find a good replacement tree.


39 weeks

One week until my official due date!  The belly is huge but it’s surprisingly not causing me many problems.  I still feel great (so lucky!) and am staying active.  My only issues are swollen ankles (not cute), a bit of heartburn, and occasionally bumping into things because I don’t realize just how far my belly extends.  Baby is moving around but I can tell he’s running out of room in there so he can’t do the big dramatic alien-looking movements anymore.  Now we just have to wait and see when the big day comes.

We had a fun and productive weekend.  On Saturday Matt put in his last big day as volunteer coordinator / jack-of-all-trades at the P-patch paths project.  At home, I enjoyed some phone time with my mom and sister, did laundry, cleaned, organized the pantry and closets… I guess it was the late pregnancy nesting impulse.  I also trained the dogs.  We’re working on loose leash walking (still - but improving nicely!) and creating positive associations with nail clippers (currently I can’t cut Sonny’s nails, so we’re working up to it by first getting treats for being calm and not moving when the clippers come near his feet).  In the evening we stopped by our friends’ house for a visit and to pick up more baby supplies.  The house is getting crowded with all this baby gear, despite our organizational efforts.  It’s just a lot of stuff.  We need to move some things to the garage.


On Sunday we had brunch with friends and then Matt spent some time organizing the garage and working on our diaper changing station.  I hope he can finish it before the baby arrives.  We also managed to clear up some space in our bedroom by getting rid of a large filing cabinet and small TV.  We freecycled both and they were picked up on Monday.  Then we took the dogs to the park, where for the first time this spring we let them swim in Lake Washington.  They had a great time.

On the way home we stopped at the P-patch so I could see all the amazing progress, and a fellow gardener snapped the top photo of the whole family in the orchard.  We ended the day with doggie baths.  They are so clean and soft now.  Ready to meet their new brother!


Weekend in photos

Organizing baby gear (before/during chaos shot).  [Also sneak preview of the re-do of our smaller bedroom… Matt just built that desk to go between the wardrobes.  We will share details later.]  We have so much!  Generous gifts and hand-me-downs from friends and family put us a long way toward being prepared.  For the rest, can I mention again how much I love freecycle?  I’ve gotten a bunch of baby clothes, a glider-style rocking chair, crib (which we then re-freecycled after deciding to use a hand-me-down from our friends), and some baby toys and accessories.  And whenever we don’t need something anymore, someone who will use it whisks it away within a few days!  We don’t even have to leave the house.  So great.

Baby laundry.  This kid has more laundry than I do and he’s not even born yet!  I saw a glimpse of my future and it looks like laundry is going to be a major activity.

Dog park.  Sorry it’s blurry, but it was almost dusk.  On the plus side, we practically had the whole place to ourselves.  With fewer distractions, the dogs got a chance to run really fast.

Sonny’s circus dog impression.

Ball fetching time!

Matt cuts a hole for a new light switch.  Safety first!  Glasses, earplugs, gloves, dust mask, and vacuuming up the dust with one hand while using the Fein tool to cut with the other.

Consulting my go-to book on wiring and starting to plan out the new lighting circuit.  With huge belly and Maxy-dog companion.

Matt turning an Ikea shelving unit that used to live in our bedroom into an entertainment unit for the living room.  Sneak preview - more details on this spontaneous project to come.

And that’s a peek into our weekend.  The weather was great most of the time, so we enjoyed some meals cooked on the grill and eaten in the back yard.  We also watched Superbad after I discovered that our local library branch actually has some movies I’d like to watch.  I will be checking out some more.


RIP tree

Last week I took this picture of our house from across the street.  I wanted a photo of the yard with all its springy greenness.  Take a look at the tree planted in the parking strip directly in front of our house.  It looks good, right?  Had I known this would be our last picture of the house with the tree intact, I would have waited for Matt to finish cleaning the window so his butt wouldn’t be in the shot.

Monday morning:  We were both working from home.  Worky-work, tap-tap-tap on our keyboards.  It was a sunny day and a bit windy, but not too crazy.

1:00 pm:  CRACK!  Both of us, in different rooms, look out the front window and see half our 30-foot tall tree fall into the street.  Luckily no one was driving by at the moment.

1:00 - 1:30 pm:  Matt calls an arborist and the city.  The part of the tree that fell is blocking two lanes of our four-lane street.  Fortunately traffic is light this time of day.  Some guy pulls over in his pickup truck and tries to drag the fallen half of the tree out of the street and direct traffic.  Matt goes outside and tells him to knock it off as 1) he’s on our property and the rest of the tree could fall on this guy; 2) professionals are on their way to deal with it; 3) people can figure out how to drive around an obstruction in the road.

1:30 pm:  The arborists arrive.  Within 15 minutes they cut up the fallen part of the tree into pieces small enough to move onto the parking strip.

1:45 pm:  Someone arrives from the city (SDOT) and takes some pictures of the tree.  We find out it is lucky the arborist came to move the fallen tree, since for some reason the city doesn’t seem to have anyone available to do anything about there being a large obstruction on a major city street.  She tells Matt that the tree is on the city tree inventory, that pear trees (we didn’t even know it was a pear tree - it doesn’t fruit but it flowers every year) its size tend to randomly fall apart like this, and that the city will pay the arborist to cut down the rest of the tree.  

2:00 pm:  Matt gets a quote from the arborist to chip the branches and stump and to prune the other two big trees in our yard after they’ve removed the damaged tree. 

3:00 pm:  The arborist shows up to cut down the remaining half a tree and put the whole thing through the wood chipper.  It takes less than 30 minutes.

3:30 pm:  The tree has been reduced to a pile of wood chips in the driveway.  The arborist leaves.  They will come back another day to grind the stump and prune our other trees.  Matt starts moving wheelbarrows full of wood chips and quickly spreads it onto various planting beds in the front and back yard.  Silver lining: he’d been talking for months about how he needed some wood chips.

4:30 pm:  There is virtually no sign that there was ever a beautiful 30-foot tree in the parking strip in front of our house.  It has disappeared completely.  Our view is so different now.  The view of our house from the street will never be the same.  Our across-the-street neighbor commented about how it was such a nice tree.  We are sad.  Now we need to get a new tree.

Lesson:  Don’t put off tree maintenance.  We’ve been talking about having the trees looked at and pruned (by an arborist, as opposed to by Matt who only vaguely knows what he’s doing) for the last two years.  It seems unlikely this tree would have been saved, but it could have been removed more safely and at a better time for planting a new one.  We are lucky that no one got hurt and there was no property damage.


“Five minute” ceiling fans: Part 2 (Success!)

In Part 1 of this story, I discuss how we ran the wires for a new circuit serving these ceiling fans and some unexpected trouble that forced us to cut a random hole in our bedroom wall.  Once the wires were all run, Matt had to add 2x6 supports between the joists in the attic and attach the new electrical boxes to them.  From underneath, it looked like this:

Then it was my turn to hit the attic and make up the remaining connections in a junction box.  Like so: (and then nail the junction box to the side of the joist, tuck all wires into the box, and put a cover on it)

I also had to install the switches, both of which presented issues.  In one bedroom, the space in the wall was shallower than normal due to a stud in the way, so I had to use a different electrical box and play around with shims to get it flush with the drywall.

In the other bedroom, the wall was deep enough but not wide enough to accommodate a double gang box (due to another stud!), so I had to use a double-rocker switch.  I actually like that better than the two separate switches.  Here’s what the switches look like in the two rooms:


The extra time it took us to decommission the old wiring, run the new wires and figure out what we were doing forced us to spread out the project over the course of more than one weekend.  And during that time, I started questioning whether those fans we had bought spontaneously were well suited for our space.  I thought that the 52” fan diameter was kind of big for our small bedrooms, but Matt was still liking them.  We inevitably needed to make a trip to Home Depot or Lowes for something or other.  I can’t remember which store it was, but at the front near the checkout lanes we spied a display of ceiling fan/light combos.  The model was not going to be carried anymore and they were on sale for $13 each.  Here is the exact model on Amazon for $80.  Score!  And most importantly, these fans met our criteria: a less huge fan blade diameter, option to install flush to the ceiling without the downrod (our ceilings are not that high), and it had reversible fan blades so we could choose light wood or dark wood color.  We scooped up two of these and later returned the $116/each “5 minute” Hunter fans which we had yet to even attempt installing aside from reading the instructions.

We ran into a few more issues along the way.  One was that we messed up the drywall when we pulled out the old electrical boxes, so we at first had to use some shims to make an even surface for the fan’s mounting brackets to push against.

We have been using the fans with these ugly shims sticking out the top for the past year and a half.  

Fast forward to now, we removed the entire fixture in one bedroom so we could paint the ceiling.  Now that the room is painted, we decided to use the opportunity to make some improvements to the fan.  One thing we did was upgrade the mounting situation.  The fan came with short screws that connected the mounting bracket to the metal electrical box, but we never really thought that was a great way to support it.  We had originally mounted it instead with longer screws that went all the way up into the 2x6 in the attic, but I still never felt 100% satisfied with that solution.  This time we replaced the screws with bolts that go all the way through the 2x6 so there is no way it can come loose over time.

We also purchased a ceiling medallion ($9 at Home Depot) to cover up the broken drywall and provide a flat surface for the mounting bracket and fan canopy to rest against.  The medallion was white, and we decide to try spray painting it to match the fan.

Installation of the canopy involves pushing it up against the ceiling and twisting it to catch on the screws sticking out of the mounting bracket.  We had a little trouble with that part, which we later fixed by adding a large washer and a small washer to the bolts above the mounting bracket.  It’s hard to explain, but it worked.  Unfortunately, we had completely destroyed the paint job on the medallion by then.

Matt was pretty sad.  Not about the medallion so much as just the installation not going well at this stage.  We had really hoped to be finished by this time.  We also realized there were two other problems with the medallion: the silver paint did not match as well as we’d hoped, and the small diameter (10”) was making things more difficult by not allowing enough room to get a screwdriver to the screws sticking out the sides of the mounting bracket.

So we stopped by HD and picked up this 16” medallion instead.  We did not attempt to paint it.  We just slapped it up on the ceiling, and with the help of those extra washers on the bolt, the rest of the installation went smoothly.

We had also recently purchased some new glass shades to replace the ones that came with the fans.  One of the original shades was broken right out of the box, and we’d been living with one exposed bulb on that fan.  Instead of replacing it with the same generic shade, we’ve been casually looking for a set of fancier ones for a long time.  A few weeks ago, we finally found one we love, and that there were actually 6 of them in stock!  Aren’t they gorgeous?

Finally, a happy end to the saga.  We are very happy with the way it turned out, despite all the trouble along the way.


Paint is finally being applied

We’ve only lived in the house 2 years + 9 months, and this is the first time any paint has been applied to a surface in the house.  Sure, we’ve cut a lot of holes in the walls, ripped out windows and removed sills and a mantel, but this is the first time we’re attempting to make the walls look better.  Ok, technically Matt did already put trim on all the new windows and the front door, but it’s only primed and not painted.  

Turns out things get a little tricky when there’s a funky texture on the wall and you have to patch a big hole in the drywall.  We think we found a good solution to that, which we’ll share when we can show the final result.  Stay tuned!


My carpenter

This was the scene I came home to one evening last week.  When I called home from work toward the end of that day, Matt told me “you don’t need to rush home anytime soon.”  I responded with a sarcastic thanks.  Of course it wasn’t because he didn’t want to see me, it was because all this was going on.  Please note that there are FOUR nail guns on the living room floor.  It was no problem for me to stay away longer because 1) I had plenty of food at work, 2) I had plenty of work to do, and 3) I needed to stop by Lowe’s on the way home to buy paint for the bathroom and one of the bedrooms.  Colors to be revealed when we get the painting done, which should be within the next week or two.  When I walked in the front door, Matt was literally holding up the TV trying (and failing) to get it clipped on to the wall mount bracket.  My timing was lucky; it’s a two person job.  But just look how proud he was:

And I’m proud too.  I love it that my hubby does things like this.  See Matt’s posts about how he did it and his SketchUp drawing of how it will look once the last bits of trim are added.


Mantel SketchUp Drawing.  Today I threw myself into actually building it.  There’s a few more details yet to be added (in real life) but it’s 75% done.  I need someone to be my 25% person so I can start painting the small bedroom.  Kelly pushed me to hand draw a few versions, I lost the best drawing during my “Home Depot closing in 10 minutes frenzied state” a week ago, and I finally decided I should really cut my teeth on SketchUp to really get it right.  A lot of fun creating the drawings and even more fun finally building it.  More details and pictures soon.

Mantel SketchUp Drawing.  Today I threw myself into actually building it.  There’s a few more details yet to be added (in real life) but it’s 75% done.  I need someone to be my 25% person so I can start painting the small bedroom.  Kelly pushed me to hand draw a few versions, I lost the best drawing during my “Home Depot closing in 10 minutes frenzied state” a week ago, and I finally decided I should really cut my teeth on SketchUp to really get it right.  A lot of fun creating the drawings and even more fun finally building it.  More details and pictures soon.


Side venting the clothes dryer: many lessons learned


This is not a recent project, but one that I’ve been meaning to share because it might be helpful to others.  When we bought our house, it came with an old school washer and dryer in the kitchen.  They took up almost the whole wall on the far side of the room.  (Also check out that horrible fake wood counter and backsplash.  Those came out in short order too.)


One of our first big purchases for the house was a new Samsung front-loading washer and dryer.  We got a good deal on them from Lowes by using one of those coupons you get when you change your address, plus one of those appliance sales they have several times a year.  We had the installers stack them, which allowed us to move our refrigerator from its original location just inside the kitchen doorway.  That really opened up the room.  

But there was a problem.  Isn’t there always something?  The back door to the house opens toward the washer/dryer, and I had measured them and knew they would fit and allow the door to open 90 degrees.  What I didn’t count on was that when the dryer is stacked on top of the washer, it is actually set back almost 4 inches.  It doesn’t look like it is from the front, but that’s because the top of the washing machine curves back at the top.  That meant that in order to leave enough room behind the dryer for the vent, the washing machine had to stick out 4 inches further than I had realized.  And then the back door couldn’t open all the way, which was not a good thing.  Argh!

I did some research and found out that while the default is for the vent to come out the back of the dryer, it can also be configured to come out either side!  Great, I thought, this will solve the problem.  Somehow I found out I needed a “side vent kit.”  I called Lowes to inquire about obtaining the side vent kit.  Lowes told me to call Samsung.  Samsung told me to use a Whirlpool side vent kit.  I called Whirlpool and they told me to get the side vent kit from Lowes.  I called Lowes again and they told me to call Samsung or Whirlpool.  Hmm.  [Note: this was over two years ago, and there may now be an actual Samsung side vent kit, but I can’t vouch for it.]  I looked around on the internet.  I found the Whirlpool side vent kit on and bought it.  It took them over a month to send it to me even though they charged my credit card when I ordered it.  Then later I discovered that the kit was not useful, which I’ll tell you about in a minute.  The only good thing about the side vent kit was that its one-sheet set of instructions correctly indicated that I would have to essentially disassemble the entire dryer (but didn’t say how to do that) to access the internal venting and reroute it out the side.  

Unfortunately, the regular user manual does not provide instructions or even enough information about the insides of the dryer to figure out how to disassemble it.  I needed the service manual.  I found the service manual on several websites, but they were all charging an arm and a leg for it.  I don’t remember exactly how much, but I want to say in the ballpark of $40-50, which seems ridiculous.  Shouldn’t I be able to get a free copy of the service manual for an appliance I just bought for a lot of money?  Apparently not.  Finally, I found a person/website that saved me: the Samurai Appliance Repair Man at  I think I paid $5 at the time (looks like now it’s $10) for a 3-month “apprenticeship” (i.e., subscription), which entitled me to get as much forum advice and/or request any service manuals to washers, dryers, dishwashers, ovens, etc.  I asked for the service manual to my dryer, and within a short time the Samurai provided it in downloadable format!  Well, technically not the one for my exact make/model, but it was almost identical.  The Samurai Appliance guy is providing a really helpful service at a reasonable price.  I’m a fan.

I was pleased about getting the service manual for only $5 instead of $50.  I followed the directions in the service manual and started disassembling the dryer.  Everything was just as the manual showed, and all went smoothly.  Obviously, unplug it first.  Then take off the door and front panels:


The blower cover: 



And the drum cover:


Next take of the drum belts and the entire drum comes out:



… exposing the inner duct, which is under the drum and behind the blower.  Woohoo!  

And then, disaster.  The side vent kit was all wrong!  The parts matched the inventory and instructions that came with the kit, but just made no sense in the context of the actual dryer.  Once the dryer was disassembled, it was clear that at the very least a duct elbow would be needed, and that even the straight pieces included were not useful.  I wrote to Appliance Zone and told them that the kit doesn’t have the right parts, and asked for a replacement with the correct kit or else a refund.  They refused to do anything whatsoever to rectify the situation because I didn’t contact them within 10 days.  Are you kidding?  It went back and forth several times, and I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say I was extremely displeased with their “customer service” and two years later I still hold a grudge.  I will never purchase anything from them again, and you, dear readers, shouldn’t either.  Rant over, back to the story.  

I had blown some money on this overpriced and useless side vent kit.  On a few DIY forums, several people recommended making your own side vent kit from common duct parts found at the local hardware store.  Originally I had wanted to do it the “right” way by using a sanctioned kit, but now that was off the table.  Plus my dryer was in pieces all over my kitchen and living room floor.  I made a quick trip to Home Depot and bought some 4-inch round rigid duct pieces: 2 straight and one elbow.  Yep, that’s it.  Each piece was under $4.  I should have just done that in the first place.  It was so much easier and so much cheaper than the kit, which I couldn’t use for anything.  While I was at HD, I also bought a semi-rigid duct with connectors similar to this to use on the outside of the dryer, since I didn’t think too highly of the flimsy one used in the original installation.

Upon returning home, I had to make things up as I went along since my kit instruction sheet was useless (aside from vaguely mentioning that the dryer had to be taken apart), and side venting was the one topic the service manual didn’t cover.  Fortunately, there wasn’t much possibility of doing it wrong.  The existing duct went from the blower straight out the back of the dryer.  The new duct clearly needed to go straight towards the back, but then make a 90 degree turn to the left and go out the side instead.  That was the only possible way it could go from the blower to the knockout hole in the side.  So I cut my $4 straight pieces to the right length and connected them with the elbow.  I used the knockout from the side to cover the identical hole left in the back of the dryer, using foil tape to secure it.  [Note: Do not use duct tape on ducts and the like!  Use foil tape.]  Here’s what the internal duct looks like for side venting: 


I don’t have photographic evidence, but I think I must have put some foil tape on the duct connections too.

EDIT: See the access panel in the back? Someone mentioned in the comments that you may be able to replace the ducting through that hole without having to take apart the whole dryer from the front! Genius! If you can maneuver through that hole, it will save a ton of time.

Then I put everything back together, working backward through the manual.  I had kept all the screws in separate containers with little notes so I wouldn’t mix them up.


I attached the semi-rigid duct to the outside using the connectors it came with.  I chose that one because the plastic connectors protect the bendy parts from getting crushed.  It’s important for dryer vents to stay as smooth inside and uncrushed as possible, otherwise lint can accumulate unnoticed and become a fire hazard.  The plastic connector also gave me something to attach the inner duct to.


The hole in the drywall was too big, so I got Matt to cut a square of plywood with a right-sized hole in the middle.  The plywood covered the extra space around around the hole in the drywall and gave me something to securely screw the vent door into.  I guess we already had the vent door shown (I don’t know what it’s called) along with this thing.


And here’s what the finished product looks like (see how the vent can actually go behind the washing machine since it has a lot more room behind it than the dryer):




In conclusion, I spent:

  • countless hours researching whether this could be done and how to do it;
  • some more hours trying to track down the (useless) side vent kit — though maybe there now exists a side vent kit that actually works;
  • a few more hours searching for the service manual before I came across the Samurai Appliance guy, for whose existence I am eternally grateful;
  • about $20 on things that actually helped me do the project;
  • more than $20 (I don’t even want to tell you how much) on something that was totally useless.

And for all of that, I got:

  • to move my stacked washer and dryer back a whopping 4 inches,
  • which allows the back door to my house to open 90 degrees instead of an unacceptable 70 degrees.

Was it worth it?  Let’s put it this way: if you are considering doing this, I would suggest you exhaust (!) other options that don’t require side venting.  If you really need to do it, it can be done, and maybe my experience will help you.  [Disclaimer: I do not know whether doing this yourself or even having a professional do it could void your warranty.  I read somewhere this might be the case, so I inquired about having it done by Lowes and they said they wouldn’t do it.  Proceed at your own risk.] 

I think in our case it was worth it.  Side venting was the only thing that would allow our preferred kitchen arrangement, and the alternatives are vastly inferior.  The dryer is currently only about an inch or so out from the wall, which is not enough room for even something like this periscope duct.  Recessing the duct into the wall was also not an option because there is plumbing in the wall.  Although there were frustrating moments along the way, it was an interesting challenge for me, and I’m proud that I persevered and got it done.